How do you categorize a man who deliberately makes it impossible to do so? From his stellar debut, The College Dropout to his latest release, the musical scope of Kanye West is both vast and innovative. Can we call him an all-around rock star as opposed to a hip-hop artist? Do his controversial declarations have heartfelt meaning, or just a means of getting attention? Is it fair to call West a mad genius, or a narcissistic a-hole?
More importantly, we continue to ask these questions; And that’s exactly what the man wants. Does he care about the answers? Hell no. This has never been more apparent on West’s sixth studio album, Yeezus. With a record that received no promotion (save for an SNL performance) and lacks any radio-friendly singles, Yeezus by far stands as West’s most daring and experimental album to date. Clocking in at 40 minutes (his shortest), the outlandish production (Daft Punk, Rick Rubin) could only work on such a tight piece of work. Before you realize the songs are all over the place, it’s over, and you’re ready to listen again.
Lyrically, West flips the bird to nearly everyone who stands in his way. While this may be nothing new, he does it with more authority and carelessness than ever before. On the track “I Am a God,” he boasts, “I am a God/So hurry up with my damn massage/In a French-ass restaurant/Hurry up with my damn croissants.” Throughout Yeezus, West is clearly at his angriest, his fiercest and most merciless.
For those who despise the multi-Grammy winning rapper, they will have brand new arsenal to attack West all summer long. After all, on “I’m In It,” the man compares one of the most significant phrases of the civil rights movement, Dr. King’s “free at last,” to the exposure of a women’s bosom from her bra. Furthermore, “Blood on the Leaves” samples Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit,” a song written in 1939 that tackled American racism and lynching. Haters will certainly be hating.
But for the people who can look at West’s controversy as intentional instigation, the record is a bold masterpiece of polished songs and brilliantly egotistical lyrics. Conventional hip-hop is tossed out the window, combining rock, punk and new-wave sounds. The constant references to sex, money and pretty much running the world works, because after all the backlash, West still doesn’t give a sh*t.
After fathering a child with a celebrity who can actually rival his fame (Kim Kardashian), he no doubt will be under the microscope more than ever. This makes the bragging, the narcissism and the Jesus references that much more genius. Will the self-proclaimed “douchebag” ever settle down? Who knows. But as long as people are paying attention, records like this will continue to drop. That’s a good thing, by the way.
3.5/4 Stars. Yeezus drops June 18.